November 27, 2014
Customers are forced
to buy its product. Washington
showers it with 82 types of
subsidies, and state and local governments are nearly as generous. It’s
exempt from penalties for the worst environmental damage it causes.
Is there an
“industry” more coddled than wind power?
but wind’s lobbyists refuse to abandon their campaign to preserve the
Production Tax Credit (PTC). The “temporary” federal perk, created in the cornucopia of lousy
policies that emerged during the George H.W. Bush administration, has been
reauthorized seven times. It doesn’t deserve an eighth.
value is currently $23 per megawatt-hour. No small sum, notes the Institute for
Energy Research (IER) in a
new analysis, because “prices in wholesale electricity markets typically
hover around $50 per megawatt-hour.” The Senate Finance Committee estimates
that a two-year extension will cost $13.35 billion. The Institute’s
number-crunching finds that the tab is equivalent to “124 million Americans’
average monthly electricity bill,” or “the total tax bill of 4.8 million
families with median incomes for a single year.”
The PTC is a uniquely
unfair “tax expenditure.” Windy states get the goodies, while their calmer
counterparts pay the bills. By region, in 2012, “the Northeast (-$591.8
million) and Southeast (-$559.3 million) were the biggest ‘net payers,’ while
the Southwest (+$551.4 million) and Midwest
(+$426.9 million) were the most sizable ‘net takers.’” Texas-hating moonbats,
take note -- landing in the top slot, the Lone Star State
harvested a whopping $394.5 million worth of credits in 2012.
Aside from its
priciness, taxpayer “investment” in wind is undesirable due to the energy
source’s reliable unreliability. Physicist Howard Hayden Wind observed that it
produces “the lowest-quality electricity on the planet.” Welsh
ecologist John Etherington noted that “the unpredictability of wind demands
the constant availability of conventional generating capacity to provide extra
electricity or to balance over-production because electricity has to be
consumed instantaneously as it is generated, or generated to satisfy
is an additional complication. The windiest areas tend to have sparse
populations, necessitating the construction of long transmission lines. When
turbines are constructed near homes, complaints quickly accumulate. In 2011, The
Los Angeles Times chronicled the
grumbling of residents close to a wind “farm” in Tehachapi, California.
“Once, you could see stars like you wouldn’t believe,” Donna Moran said. “Now,
with the lights from the turbines, you can’t even see the night sky.” Noise is
a quibble. So is “shadow flicker,” which The
Boston Globe described as “a
pulse of flashing light and dark.” It afflicts “residents from Newburyport
to Falmouth who
live literally in the shadow of wind turbines.” Doreen Reilly, of Kingston, told the paper, “You
can’t stay in your room. You get a headache. You can’t live your life.”
is another reason to scrap government largesse for wind. True environmentalists
understand that big turbines are brutal to bats and birds. As Etherington put
it, turbines “are so gigantic that, though the rotor appears to be travelling
quite slowly, the blade tip velocity of a big machine often exceeds 150 mph.”
The IER’s report
quotes a U.S. Geological
Survey biologist’s gruesome tale: “In some parts of the country, bat
researchers who only rarely catch hoary bats in the wild can
now walk beneath turbines at certain wind energy facilities during autumn and
find more dead … on the ground in a few weeks than they have caught during
their entire careers.” Using a range of 3.1 to 11.7 deaths per megawatt, the
IER estimates that wind destroys between 190,000 and 717,116 birds annually.
Are operators ever prosecuted for their crimes against wildlife? Of course not.
Don’t you know that wind is “green”?
Were it not
for the PTC and state requirements that utilities produce or purchase
“renewable” power, wind would contribute nothing to the nation’s electricity
supply. (Its “performance” would be a dismal as solar.) Yet wind is so wildly
impractical, despite more than two decades of heavy subsidization, its status
approaches irrelevancy. When the PTC was enacted, just 0.1 percent of U.S. power
generation derived from wind. Today, the share is 4.1 percent. That’s far less
than coal (39 percent), natural gas (27 percent), and nuclear (19 percent).
Even hydropower, in an
era of dam removal, soundly bests wind’s output.
and an environmental menace -- if it were desirable for government to involve
itself with wind power at all, ideally, politicians would erect obstacles, not bestow
benefits. Permanently killing the PTC is a solid first step away from an
inefficient and destructive technology.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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